The Readiness Is All

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on March 25, 2011

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Come closer.  Closer.  Come on, I won’t bite.  Now that I have your attention.  Here it is.

I can be a bit of a control freak.

Now, please understand.  I won’t tell you how you are eating with the wrong fork, or how that black belt cannot be worn with brown shoes, or how your pantry is not arranged and labeled in the most efficient manner, i.e. “my way.”

I am not in the habit of making other people do what I want them to do.  My control issues come from a strong feeling of responsibility.  For other people’s actions.  Psychologists might call it co-dependency, but what do they know?  Whatever it is, I feel that I have the power to affect what other people do.

And I couldn’t be more wrong.

So, Brandon, what does this have to do with anything?  The point is that what I am doing here in Clarksville is a great example of how I am totally out of control.  In a word, acting.

For those of you that think acting is an elaborate dance, where you learn your lines and I learn my lines, and everything is choreographed and anticipated down to the tiniest detail, you are right.  That is part of it.  Most of the time.  But, like any dynamic system, randomness is not only a possibility, it is a certainty.  And you know what?  That is what makes it beautiful!  It is the reason we go to theatre and watch people on the stage.  Living, breathing human beings who might do anything, at any moment.

Sometimes, though, as an actor, I know better.  Humans are creatures of habit, we fall into patterns because those are easier to recognize and execute.  And on stage it is no different.  Any honest actor will admit to occasionally going on what could be called “auto-pilot,” or going through the motions.  This, for me, is an overriding system that can keep the play going no matter who screws up.  Keep moving forward.  We’ve gotta get through this.  Then I stop and shake myself back into the work, determined not to let the robot take over again.  But it comes back, again and again.  Ay, there’s the rub.  As an actor, I, deep down, am afraid of the very thing that will make my performances brilliant.  Letting go of my precious safety net.

When I am on the stage working with my fellow actors, I have to listen and watch.  I have had no better opportunity to exercise this skill than on the Roxy stage.  In Hamlet, I played the role of Horatio, who, for those unfamiliar with the play, is often on stage, often still, and more than often, silent.  Now, in the upcoming production of Bea(u)tiful in the Extreme, I am playing several parts in the ensemble.  Once again, a lot of silent presence on my part, but oh, oh do I wish that silence meant the work was easy.

For me, being on the outer edge of a scene causes me to overcompensate in my efforts.  I think every second about how I am feeling, how I am reacting, how I move.  My ability to turn my head into an artistic taskmaster is astounding.  Don’t draw too much attention to yourself, Brandon, you’re not the star here.  What are you doing, you blew that moment to react!  No, it’s too late now.  Keep going.  Well?  What are you waiting for?  You have a line!   And while I am trying to be the great artist in my head, there is a performance going on.  Oh, right.

So, in order to make sure that I am earning my place on stage with my fellow actors, I have to find a way to be just as engaged as they are.  By really listening.  And really watching.  The way that I go about that, is to let go of what I know is coming next.  Instead of walking along my partner’s lines with them, waiting for my turn to talk, or when I am “actually responsible” to do something, I let go of trying to keep tabs on the scene, and watch, like a very involved audience member.  Then I see the look on my acting partner’s face, the one I never noticed before, and sense the little quaver in their voice, the one I never heard before.  And you know what?  I think I start to feel something, a real response.  Maybe I’m acting.

It feels wonderful, letting go.

If only I could control it.

–  Brandon

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